Under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty, the British Royal Navy (RN) was only allowed to have two capital ships and these became HMS Nelson and HMS Rodney of the Nelson-class. The pair was ordered in 1922 as the military draw-down of the post-World War 1 era continued. However, the RN took with it the lessons learned of the naval fighting in the conflict, particularly at the Battle of Jutland in 1916 where resilience and firepower proved far more important and maneuverability. The warships were in service throughout the 1920s and 1930s and, by the time of World War 2 in 1939, were considered the most modern available to the British Fleet. Both managed to survive the years-long conflict and ended their days on the scrap heap.
HMS Rodney(29) was built by Cammell Laird of Birkenhead and saw her keel laid down on December 28th, 1922. She was launched to sea on December 17th, 1925 and formally commissioned on November 10th, 1927. She fought her entire career under the motto of "Eagles Do not Breed Doves".
One of the drawbacks of having been constructed in the 1920s, especially under the limitations of the Washington Naval Treaty, was in the displacement limit of 36,000 tons. This meant that engineers had to find the perfect balance between size, armoring and armament all the while paying attention to achievable speeds. Some of the "must-haves" of the vessels were 16" main gun batteries as well as sound protection. Rodney and Nelson were completed with more advanced features than their contemporaries - including liquid-loaded bulkheads under the waterline.
HMS Rodney displaced 34,270 tons under standard load and this rose to 38,000 tons under full load. Her length measured 710 feet with a beam of 106 feet and a draught of 31 feet. Power was from 8 x Admiralty 3-drum oil-fired boiler units feeding 2 x Brown-Curtis geared steam turbine sets developing 45,000 horsepower to 2 x Shafts under stern. The large warship could make headway at 23 knots and range out to 14,500 nautical miles.
Aboard were 1,314 personnel though a full crew of over 1,300 could be carried when Rodney was tabbed as flagship.
Armor protection ranged from 14 inches at the belt and 6 inches at the deck to 16 inches at the turrets and 14 inches at the conning tower. She was a well-armored warship to be sure.
Primary armament was 9 x 16" Mk I series guns held in three triple-gunned turrets. One of the unique design facets of the vessel was its positioning of all three primary turrets ahead of midships, considerably disrupting the ship's profile from a traditional sense. This pushed the bridge superstructure and all of its mastworks over midships and aft. The second mast was positioned ever-closer to the stern and the smoke funnels sat between both mast positions.
Beyond the 16" gun fit were 12 x 6" Mk XXII guns in six double-gunned turrets, 6 x QF 4.7" Mk VIII Anti-Aircraft (AA) guns in single-gunned emplacements and 8 x 2-pounder AA guns in single-gunned emplacements. A product of its time, the battleship was completed with 2 x 24.5" (622mm) Mk I torpedo tubes. Along with her armoring, HMS Rodney was a very powerful warship.
Well armed and armored, the Nelson-class were noted as slow but this was the price to pay for treaty limitations in a post-war world. Additionally, the complex armor scheme made them very expensive to maintain and difficult to repair.
Prior to the opening shots of World War 2 in September of 1939, HMS Rodney served with the British Atlantic and Home fleets and, in October of 1938, she was given 79Y radar - the first RN warship to be given this vital component. In 1940, the system was already upgraded to Type 279 radar. Despite this, the class was in dire need of an overhaul that would have to wait.
Between hunting enemy warships and escorting Allied convoys, Rodney took part in the hunt for KMS Bismarck. She, along with other elements of the RN, engaged the damaged warship in a battle that closed range quickly. Over 300 shells were fired by Rodney alone as well as a dozen torpedoes. At least one of the fish hit the doomed enemy battleship - the first, and only, time a battleship successfully damaged another by way of torpedo in naval warfare. A refit was finally had for the ship in American waters (Boston) following the action.
Rodney took part in the Allied invasion of North Africa through Operation Torch and supported the Invasion of Sicily and, in 1944, the Invasion of Normandy (D-Day). Also in 1944, she gave up her flagship status of the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow to an overhauled HMS Nelson. Following the war (1945), the warship was laid up with her sister at the Firth of Forth in 1948 where they served as aerial bombing targets. From there the pair was unceremoniously scrapped.